GW 14 – Ones to Watch

Matt: Despite playing this game for more years than i care to remember, i still find myself thinking it defies all logic at times! Look no further than one of my tips from last weekend, Stenhousemuir, hammered 3-0 by part-timers Penicuik Athletic, a side who were playing in the Junior Leagues of Scottish football until as recently as 2018! Unbelievable Jeff!

One of the (many!) beauties of the game is that we immediately have the opportunity to right a wrong and put a big score on the board to make up for lost points, so that’s certainly what i’ll be aiming to do this weekend. Tips wise i’m heading into the National League to begin with, specifically the meeting between Barrow AFC and Sutton United. Prior to last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at Torquay United (what a journey for the travelling fans that is by the way!), Barrow were on a fantastic run of seven consecutive league wins, averaging over 2.5 goals per game in the process. They instantly recovered from that setback by winning 2-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge (another heck of a trip!) in midweek, a result which promoted them to fifth in the table and just 5 points behind leaders Bromley – with a game in hand for good measure! The Bluebirds will definitely be looking to close that gap again on Saturday as visitors Sutton’s form is the polar opposite of their host’s; no win in eight, including the indignity of being dumped out of the FA Cup by courtesy of a 5-2 thumping by National League South side Billericay Town. This awful series of results has also seen The U’s slip into the relegation zone and manager Matt Gray start to come under serious pressure. On current form it’s hard to see anything other than that pressure further mounting at Holker Street on Saturday afternoon.

In England’s League One there are a host of teams all on 22 points, desperately trying to chase down the top six. One of them is Sunderland, who must surely be targeting 3 points on Saturday against a Southend United side who are only off the bottom of the table due to Bolton’s 12 point deduction before a ball had been kicked. With just one win in 12 to their name in the league, conceding a whopping 47 goals to boot, The Shrimpers head to Wearside fresh off the back of two home defeats that saw them ship 10 goals, including a 7-1 mauling by Doncaster Rovers. Both clubs have appointed new managers in the last couple of weeks, with Phil Parkinson now at the helm for The Black Cats and Sol Campbell presiding over the visitors, and the former will be hoping for a similar outcome to his first home game in charge – a 5-0 victory no less! Sunderland have scored in every home match this season, at least twice on all but two of those occasions, so unless former England defender Campbell has miraculously transformed United’s unhealthy habit of conceding left, right and centre, you have to imagine the goals will continue to flow for them here. Good luck to you all.

Ally: My first tip of the week is no stranger to these pages, at least not for me, but I have a lot of faith in current Scottish League One table-toppers Raith Rovers who this week face a trip to struggling Peterhead. I’m more accustomed to picking the Kirkaldy outfit for their outstanding home form, but closer inspection shows they are regular goalscorers away from their Stark’s Park fortress too, having scored in every game this season with the exception of 2 early League Cup matches way back in July. With this in mind, I see them getting back to winning ways and ending a run of three successive league draws against a sorry Peterhead side who have lost 5 of their last 6 matches. A word of caution however is that The Blue Toon’s home form isn’t too bad, but one of Raith’s strengths appears to be that they share the goals around the team and i fully expect the league’s top scorers to further add to their tally.

My second pick takes me to the National League, where in-form Yeovil Town have a home game against Boreham Wood. The Glovers currently occupy third place, two points and a game in hand off leaders Bromley, while the visitors travel to Somerset firmly in mid table. The Glovers have scored in every home league game this season, though they had a 5 match winning streak at Huish Park (in which they scored 13 goals) ended last time out with a 2-1 defeat to Harrogate, but kept up the scoring streak with an injury time consolation. The Wood’s form is consistently inconsistent, with four wins, four defeats and two draws from their last 10 games, so I’m hoping that Yeovil catch Boreham on one of their bad days and get back to winning ways. Good luck!